- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryAntitrust, Commercial and Administrative LawIntroducedApril 3rd, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 2054?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 2054
In-Depth: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to allow local news outlets to negotiate collectively with large online platforms such as Facebook and Google:
“The free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Journalists keep the public informed, root out corruption, and hold the powerful accountable. This bill will provide a much-needed lifeline to local publishers who have been crushed by Google and Facebook. It’s about time we take a stand on this issue.”
In comments after committing to reintroducing this bill in the current Congress, Rep. Cicilline argued that collective negotiation with Facebook and Google is the only solution to declining ad revenues at traditional news publishers:
“Despite record levels of online readership, news publishers — and local news in particular — have seen a steep decline in revenue during the rise of these technology giants. Whether it’s an online publisher or your local newspaper, we cannot have a democracy without a free and diverse press. Our country will not survive if we do not have shared facts, if corruption is not exposed and rooted out at all levels of government, and if power is not held to account. It is simply not possible.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), an original cosponsor of this bill, adds that community journalism has a “critical place” in American democracy:
“Community journalism holds a critical place in our democracy because it helps the American people understand and engage in civil society. Through our bipartisan legislation, we are opening the door for community newspapers to more fairly negotiate with large tech platforms that are operating in an increasingly anti-competitive space. This will help protect journalism, promote competition and allow communities to stay informed.”
The News Media Alliance, which represents over 2,000 local and national news publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, supports this bill. Its president and CEO, David Chavern, says:
“This is a great day for newsrooms across our nation. We are grateful to Chairman Cicilline and Ranking Member Collins for their commitment to quality journalism and we look forward to news publishers having some relief from the platforms that currently regulate who receives our content and how much we are paid. Fair compensation for use of news content will allow news publishers to continue to reinvest in quality journalism.”
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has expressed willingness to begin paying news providers for the content that Facebook delivers to its users. He’s also acknowledged the role that “quality journalism” plays in building informed communities, and argued that Facebook has the means to support quality journalism for its users. Zuckerberg has previously suggested that Facebook could “potentially have a direct relationship with publishers to make sure that their content is available, if it’s really high-quality content.”
NetChoice — an association of commerce businesses that includes Google and Facebook — has signaled its potential opposition to this bill. NextChoice’s VP and general counsel, Carl Szabo, says this bill “empowers big media to circumvent antitrust laws and collude to grow their power.” The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s president, David Williams, adds that companies “should get equal treatment under the law, instead of big media companies enjoying lucrative exemption from antitrust laws.”
This bill has four bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and one Republican, in the 116th Congress. In the 115th Congress, Rep. Cicilline introduced this bill with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), and it didn’t receive a committee vote due to lack of Republican support in the GOP-held House in the 115th Congress. This Congress, with Rep. Collins’ support as the House Judiciary Committee’s top-ranking Republican, it may find more momentum.
This bill has the support of the News Media Alliance, American Society of News Editors (ASNE), National Newspaper Association (NNA), Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAM), and 48 state press associations representing 49 states. During the 2018 midterm elections, publishers across the U.S. called on members of Congress to support this bill.
Of Note: The Pew Research Center reports that in 2017, a majority of Americans accessed the news through only two platforms: Facebook and Google. In 2018, those same two companies earned over $60 billion from online advertising — the majority of which was online ad revenue. Currently, the Facebook/Google duopoly accounts for 90 percent of all digital ad revenue growth and approximately 60 percent of total U.S. digital advertising.
By contrast, news publishers’ annual revenue has decreased by $31 billion since 2006, going from over $49 billion a year in 2006 to $16 billion in 2017. This has devastated newsrooms and directly impacted the quality and quantity of reliable journalism that Americans have access to. According to Pew, from 2008-2017, newsroom jobs decreased by 23 percent, with most of the losses coming at newspapers, where jobs fell by 45 percent from 2008 to 2017. Today, there are around 39,000 reporters, editors and photographers across the country — a 45 percent decline from 2006 numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the downward trend in newsroom employment is set to continue, with a nine percent decline in jobs projected from 2016 to 2026.
As recently as January 2019, media outlets at the local and national levels across the country suffered mass layoffs, resulting in 800 media professionals’ losses of their jobs. After the January 2019 layoffs, HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter tweeted:
“What is happening to American journalism isn’t a mystery. Google and Facebook are eating this industry alive and taking down American democracy with it. This isn’t happening because of market inefficiencies or consumer preferences or social value. It’s happening because two very large companies have taken the advertising revenue that journalism outlets rely on and replaced it with nothing.”
Current laws prohibit news publishers from taking collective action to negotiate with the large online platforms to develop common rules of the game. The News Media Alliance argues that “in the absence of a safe harbor, [Facebook and Google] will continue to entrench their dominant position in the online ad market and as de facto regulators of free speech on the internet,” thereby posing a “major threat to the future of high-quality journalism.”
- Sponsoring Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Press Release
- Sponsoring Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Info Sheet
- Wisconsin Newspaper Association (In Favor)
- Editorials in Support (In Favor)
- Providence Journal Op-Ed (In Favor)
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution Op-Ed (In Favor)
- Arizona Newspapers Association
- The Hill
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / bernie_photo)